Diane Ernst first heard about She’s in Power and the program manager position through the Sustainable Living Association. After reading the job description, she was all in.

“I’m super passionate about empowering the next generation,” enthused Ernst. “I thought the position would give me the ability to do that while tangibly helping tackle the real issue of women in clean energy. I wanted to be part of it.”

Ernst is no stranger to catalyzing young people. As a City of Fort Collins Public Engagement Specialist, she saw a gap in programming for local teenagers. So she created and still runs a free program where teens and mentors work together on environmental stewardship, leadership and climate action. She considers it the best part of her job.

“It’s what I love most: empowering those teenagers,” said Ernst. “She’s in Power gives me the opportunity to do more of what I love. It’s also about filling a gap in programming, reaching out to and providing opportunities for a certain subset of the community that may not feel they belong in the space of sustainability or clean energy.”

Ernst brings more than 10 years of experience in public engagement and environmental education to She’s in Power. She credits her success to seeking out strong female mentors who have coached and inspired her, along with actively pursuing professional development opportunities like the sustainability training that led her to She’s in Power.

The future of the She’s in Power program looks bright with Ernst at the helm. She and the rest of the She’s in Power team have a clear vision for the program in the months and years ahead. The first big focus will be making the program more inclusive, equitable and accessible — not just reaching young women and girls, but also young women and girls of color. Next, the team will work to retain She’s in Power alumni, creating a pipeline for the program.

“Maybe that means a Spark becomes an Energizer or an Energizer becomes a Power Partner, or a Power Partner donates money to continue the program,” explained Ernst. A great way to start building that pipeline, she said, is sharing personal stories about how the program has impacted people. “What if somebody does a Power Project and then two years later, gets a job in the clean energy field? Let’s tell that story! That’s so exciting and allows more people to see women in clean energy, to spark that inspiration to do this work.”

The She’s in Power Team is also working on scalability. Ernst is a big believer in collective impact and plans to package She’s in Power in such a way that other communities can take it on — both in and outside of northern Colorado. “There’s so much power and greatness in this program. I’m excited to open doors, hear from people and really get things going.”

Read our full conversation with program manager Diane Ernst.